Jack Kerouac is accused of writing about people going nowhere…but they were always going to Denver, and that is a definite destination indeed. -As quoted in the Denver Post, December 29, 1974
Back on New Year’s Eve 2008, as the year turned to 2009, I remember being struck with an overwhelming feeling that it was going to be a good year. It felt definite and unavoidable. There were things throughout the year that quite actively worked against this but nothing could change the fate of 2009. It was, when all was said and done, a good year.
I know people who would fall on both sides of this argument, those who firmly disagree with me and didn’t bat a eye or shed a tear as the calendar turned from 2009 to 2010 and those who, upon meeting the new year, said,”You got some big shoes to fill, 20-10.” While I am admittedly someone who admits failure much more readily than I do success and will therefore avoid putting any sort of superlative next to 2009 (e.g. “greatest year ever,” “most important year ever,” “year that I ate the absolute most”), I will say that as a year it felt important/good/new enough that I couldn’t help but look at that big old full moon that 2009 left as a housewarming present for 2010 on New Year’s Eve and, like anyone who played after Otis Redding at the Monterey Pop Festival, say, “That’s a hard act to follow.”
So, you ask, what made last year so great? What made it so good that I find myself addressing calendar years as they were human? Was it that I started the year in New Orleans, spent half of it on a Greek Island and have ended up in Colorful Colorado- three of my favorite places? Well, that surely helps. Surely it has something to do with all the new people you met and strong connections you made, right? Right, thats important. What about when the Nuggets made the Western Conference Finals? Yeah, that really helped. Was it all the new places you visited and new experiences you had, from camping in Mississippi to having the best birthday you’ve maybe ever had to skinny dipping in the Aegan sea and learning how to play chess? Of course, those were all important, just like my students succeeding and all the good music and books and food that helped to make it a good year. However, there were things that didn’t help it as a great year- things I won’t go into here- but suffice it to say that every year, even the really good ones, have their ups and downs. This is why I won’t say that the aforementioned things were the essence of why this was a good year, though it bares repeating that I am thankful for all of these things and know that I wouldn’t be where I am without each and every one of those things.
Get to the point, right? Here is why:
A route differs from a road not only because it is solely intended for vehicles, but also because it is merely a line that connects one point with another. A route has no meaning in itself; its meaning derives entirely from the points that it connects. A road is a tribute to space. Every stretch of road has meaning in itself and invites us to stop. A route is the triumphant devaluation of space, which thanks to it has been rereduced to a mer obstacle to human movement and a waste of time. -Milan Kundera, “Immortality”
I feel like 2009 was a year that thrust me forward into new places with new faces, and it was the decision to make the year a road instead of a route that made the difference for me. I wanted every stretch of road to have meaning in itself and accept its invitations when it asks me to stop.
I spent so much of my time in Greece attempting to be present in a moment, to worry not about what was coming next or what came before but what was happening then. The funny thing is I realized, when all was said and done, I failed at this. I was unable to simply be present, and, to be quite honest, I’ve never been happier to admit I failed at anything in my life. One misses so much when they are simply present or in only one moment. Being present is important but I think I realized I already knew how to do that. What I really needed to learn was that life is indeed moving forward, or at least around, and the challenge is knowing when you’ve been invited to stop and value the space you’re in along this road. When I said I wanted to be present in my life, I think I actually wanted to make sure I wasn’t on a route with my actions, experiences, and movement purely defined by the point I started and where I would end up. And, you know what, it isn’t.
More than anything, I know I was much more than present because I’m in a different place than I’ve ever been before. 2009 as a road took me from one place and I’ve ended up somewhere completely new with stops on a Greek beach to play backgammon with Mike and Sarah, in John and Zalina’s house talking and laughing, in the Rude Shipyard in Sheffield, in a London warehouse flat as the blue morning light flooded the room, in Eunice, Louisiana to listen to Cajun music, and on my porch on Mardi Gras day. I will admit, the reason 2010 is going to be different than 2009 is that I’ve started it just trying to make sense of the new space I’m in. The new place to which I’ve been brought. But I’m not worried. I’m really not. As long as I step forward meaningfully on this road, this new year, and make as many stops as possible a long the way, I know everything will be fine.
Sigur Ros- Heysatan